Going the distance: Track stars Rogers, Worley reflect on six-year friendship

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ben Crawford | Daily Texan Staff

When distance runners Alex Rogers and Sam Worley first met, they didn’t know that they would both find a home at Texas — or that they would become best friends.

The story of Rogers and Worley’s friendship began in the fall of 2013 when the two were cross country teammates at Canyon High School. However, they didn’t instantly connect.

Rogers, then a junior, was the team’s top runner. Meanwhile, Worley, a freshman, was developing as an athlete and pursuing other interests. Their differing skill and commitment levels hindered their interaction.

“I was not as good as Alex was my freshman year,” Worley said. “We were in different pace groups … Outside of running, I was also in band and doing other things.”

As time progressed, Worley’s abilities, as well as his relationship with Rogers, strengthened. Once Rogers realized that Worley shared a similar competitive mindset, he wanted to keep the younger runner in his orbit.

By the fall of 2014, the friendship solidified when the duo started running together on the weekends. On their runs, Rogers and Worley talked endlessly. After finishing, they always grabbed breakfast.

Before races, they would meet at the ice baths. Worley would bring oatmeal, and Rogers would bring bananas and chocolate milk. They’d mix up the ingredients for a prerace meal and later have a final moment together ahead of each meet.

Through their friendship, Worley gained a role model, and Rogers gained the brother he never had.

“Once we clicked together, that was it,” Rogers said. “I had him, and he had me. … It was really just us against whoever wanted to come our way. But he’s obviously outgrown (the little brother role) — he’s a grown man now!”

After graduating from Canyon in 2015, Rogers continued his athletic career at Texas while Worley remained in New Braunfels, completing high school.

The friends were not as close as they had been once Rogers started college, but they spoke occasionally and always supported each other whenever one of them had a big race.

Sometimes, Worley would come to Austin to visit with Rogers and his Longhorn teammates. The visits made it easier for him to commit to Texas once it was time to sign.

“I had already been coming up to hang out with the team, so I knew I already had a family (at Texas),” Worley said. “The guys on the team were super awesome and welcoming and kind of accepted me as their own. I knew it was because of the friendship I have with Alex.”

Rogers was ecstatic when he got the call from Worley about the signing, describing his friend’s commitment to Texas as “probably the best news I’ve ever gotten.”

Once Worley arrived at Texas, Rogers gained his best friend and some new competition all in one. Both members of the sub-four minute mile club, the two are elite athletes driven by their intense will to win, so whenever Rogers and Worley are racing against each other, their friendship is pushed aside for a few minutes.

“In the race, I want to beat (Worley). I know he wants to beat me,” Rogers said. “There’s no ‘Ahh, I’ll let him get this one.’ Nah, I’m gonna try to get mine as long as I can. But it’s all love.”

Worley echoes Rogers’ sentiment. When it comes to races, winning comes first for him. But no matter the result, he always supports his friend. And they both love seeing each other run fast.

Although running at Texas has taken up a lot of their time together, Rogers and Worley still make room for fun. After the JDL DMR Invitational in February, they were on the hunt for some dinner. Valentines Day was just one day earlier, so when they went to a nearby grocery store, they left with a cookie cake that had the words ‘Be Mine’ written on it. They jokingly posted a picture of themselves together with the cake before devouring it.

But these special moments may be ending soon. With Rogers’ graduation approaching, his days at Texas are numbered, raising questions about his future and how his friendship with Worley will be maintained. Whether or not Rogers will leave to run with a professional team or continue training with Texas is uncertain. But Worley will be supporting him either way.

For now, they’re just enjoying the time they have left and remaining hopeful that their friendship will go the distance.

“Leaving really sucks … But (our friendship) is like one of those things where you can pick up where you leave off,” Rogers said. “Things will be the same eventually. Distance — it doesn’t really matter too much.”